Dominican Republic Tourism Drops 74 Percent as 13th American Dies on Vacation
Posted on: June 27, 2019, 07:15h.
Last updated on: June 27, 2019, 11:41h.
The Dominican Republic and its many casinos are facing a disastrous dip in tourism, sparked by reports of a spate of deaths of Americans tourists. The situation will in turn put pressure on the country’s gaming industry, which overwhelmingly caters to tourists.
According to a study from ForwardKeys, a business intelligence company for the global travel industry, trips booked to the Caribbean nation fell by 74.3 percent in July and August when compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, the research found that the number of cancelled trips to the DR increased by 51.2 percent between June 1 and June 19, as media reaction grew louder.
On Tuesday, Delta Airlines announced it would waive its cancelation fee for people who had booked flights to Punta Cana, in the east of the country, and were concerned about the safety of traveling.
Meanwhile, officials in the DR continue to insist that there is nothing mysterious about the deaths – that they are unrelated, coincidental and not statistically unusual, considering millions of Americans visit the country each year. The Tourism Ministry says it believes many of those reported to have died passed away from natural causes.
The US State Department has said it is “not aware” of any connection between the deaths.
On Wednesday, a 46-year-old man from Colorado became the 13th tourist to die in the DR in strange circumstances.
Khalid Adkins was taken ill on Sunday with kidney failure as he sat in airplane preparing to leave the country. He died in the hospital in Santo Domingo. According to his family, he had no pre-existing health condition.
On Tuesday, a 15-year-old girl from Argentina fell into a coma while vacationing in the DR. She has been diagnosed with the life-threatening condition that affects diabetics. Her family claims she has no history of diabetes.
Pressure on the DR Gaming Industry
The DR economy relies heavily on tourism, which accounts for 11.6 percent of its GDP and employs over 300,000 people. The country attracted 6.6 million international travellers last year, over two million from the US.
Its gaming industry is closely tied to its tourism industry, with most casinos located within the country’s large all-inclusive vacation resorts.
Two of the deaths have occurred at the Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana. Earlier this week the resort announced it would remove minibars from the guest rooms to ease fears over the theory that the deaths may have been triggered by the ingestion of methanol from bootleg liquor.
Toxicology Reports Awaited
The FBI is currently assisting local authorities in conducting toxicology tests, the results of which have not yet been released and could take up to 30 days.
Tourism officials are hoping the FBI might provide some kind of definitive answer that will ease travelers’ fears.
ForwardKeys spokesman David Tarsh told CBS News the current plunge in tourist numbers is similar to what happens after violence erupts in a country.
“You can get a long-continued problem or things can recover quite quickly, depending on whether people see the threat as being contained or ongoing,” he said. “The problem you have here is the uncertainty, because the deaths are a mystery.”